First heavy rain, then Norris’ best time on slicks

Meteorologists had predicted the worst weather for the Formula 1 weekend in Montreal and the experts were right: The first 20 minutes of the first free practice session for the 2024 Canadian GP were literally a washout. Although the session officially started on time at 1:30 p.m. local time, the traffic light at the end of the pit lane initially remained red.

Before the training session, it had rained so heavily that heavy machinery had to be used to pump the standing water off the track. Although the rain increased again at times, the session was finally allowed to start at 1:51 p.m. In the end, it dried out so much that slicks were put on in the last five minutes and the times plummeted. Lando Norris secured the best time with 1:24.435 minutes.

The result: The timesheet is almost irrelevant due to the conditions. Behind Norris in the McLaren, Carlos Sainz was in second place, three tenths of a second behind, Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc was in third place, half a second behind. Lewis Hamilton was already 1.5 seconds behind in fourth place, world champion Max Verstappen in fifth place was already 2.0 seconds behind. Not all drivers were able to improve their times on slicks in the end, Valtteri Bottas drove his personal best time, which put him in eighth place, on intermediates.

The rain start: Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to dare to take to the track – and the record winner of Formula 1 even did without the rain tires, making do with the intermediates. To be on the safe side, Mercedes screwed the old front wing onto the car so as not to risk any damage to the new model, which will be available to both drivers for the first time in Canada.

“The grip level is very low,” the Mercedes driver radioed to his engineers. “The grip is okay,” Oscar Piastri, also driving on intermediates, contradicted shortly afterwards. The track was completely resurfaced for this year.

One by one, drivers followed suit and switched from rain tires to intermediate tires. Once again it became clear that Pirelli’s rain tires were hardly usable. But even on the intermediate tires, the drivers had to struggle with the track and conditions.

The incidents: After about half an hour, the training had to be interrupted. Guanyu Zhou had lost control of the car in turn five and hit the track barrier with the left side of the vehicle: first with the rear wheel, then with the front wheel. The contact with the wall resulted in an involuntary track adjustment on both axles, and numerous carbon parts flew off. Zhou had to park his car on the track.

Otherwise, training remained relatively quiet despite the difficult conditions. One or two drivers visited the run-off areas, causing brief yellow phases, but they stayed away from the walls. This was probably also because driving was restricted overall, although conditions were constantly improving: the teams did not want to burn through too many intermediate tires.

The weather forecast: The fact that the drivers had to be careful with their tires is due to the weather forecast. Rain is forecast for the entire weekend. However, conditions should be better for the second practice session. There is a medium risk of rain for qualifying tomorrow, and rain is currently forecast for the race on Sunday.

The Friday driver: The conditions were bitter not only for the numerous fans, but also for Jack Doohan. The son of motorcycle legend Mick Doohan was allowed to sit in Esteban Ocon’s Alpine during the first practice session. It was the first of two mandatory young driver appearances this season for the French. However, Doohan was only allowed to complete one installation lap in the rain. At least he was able to go out on the track again at the end of the session on the slicks, but he was denied a timed lap.

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